Here is an interesting piece in The Guardian by Roxane Gay. She is rapidly becoming a prominent author for whom I have a serious case of fanitus. Racism and Sexism are major focuses of her writing and the tragedy of Ferguson is a topic just made for her.
We have become accustomed to images of military and police forces in riot gear, laden with weaponry and bulletproof vests, shields and batons. We’ve seen these men awash in plumes of smoke and tear gas, their faces protected by gas masks as they advance on protesting crowds. Generally, though, these images have come to us from a world away. Here, in the United States, we no longer have that remove.
I was naïve. Despite my political awareness, I bought in to the idea of America, an imperfect union where nonetheless, we held certain truths to be self-evident. I believed in the Constitution, the rights to assemble, to protest, to have a free press. All that has changed because of the out-of-control, militarized police forces in Ferguson, Missouri.
I am outraged but I do not know what to do with my outrage that might be productive, that might move this world forward toward a place where black lives matter, and where black parents no longer need to have “the talk” with their children about how not to be killed by police and where anger over a lifetime of wrongs is not judged, but understood and supported.
The mainstream media is trying to report on this travesty, and all too often, they are failing. There is a preoccupation with the actions of a few, with the salacious discussions of looting and a people run amok over the plight of the many living in an occupied community.
In truth, the media rarely seems well equipped to write about tragedy and trauma ethically, particularly when race is involved. It does not know how to report on Ferguson’s grief and anger without resorting to the most facile – and often most damaging – language that only perpetuates the ever-present racial divide in this country. A USA Today headline read, “Police seek order as Ferguson furor builds”, seemingly without irony because, just above that headline, is a picture of peaceful protestors and, above that, the alarming statistics from the Ferguson police blotter that reveal how the black citizens of that town, are indeed persecuted. The disconnect is hiding in plain sight.
Those of us who are watching at a remove are trying to find the words to describe our horror, our dismay, our anger but nothing seems adequate. We are not there. Our good intentions on social networks won’t change the situation. Our pithy comments about how we are now, finally, like the rest of the world won’t change the situation.
We need action from our political leaders. We need change in how the police protect and serve. We need to redefine how the law regards black people. As individuals, we need to fundamentally alter how we think about race in America. We need to do the hard work of overcoming our lesser selves.
Silence is not an option but words are not enough.